This is the complete guide to IELTS listening organized by real student questions!

If you can’t find your question, please put it in the comments or send us a message.

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The Test

“How many questions are on the listening test?”

There are 40 questions.

“How long does the listening test last?”

It may feel like forever, but it’s only 30 minutes listening and 10 minutes to transfer your answers to answer sheet.

“How many sections are there?”

There are 4 sections.

1. a transaction (2 speakers)

2. a public announcement (1 speaker)

3. an academic discussion (2+ speakers)

4. a lecture (1 speaker).

“How many different types of questions are there?”

There are 14 different question types.

“How long do I have to read the questions?”

You will have 30 seconds to read the questions before listening.

“When should I write on the answer sheet?”

At the end of the test you have 10 extra minutes to transfer your answers.

“Can I write in all capitals?”

Yes, if you want.

“Is capitilisation important?”

No, you will still receive full marks for ‘london’ or ‘London.’

“Is spelling important?”

Yes, you will be marked down for mispelling words.

“Do my answers have to be grammatically correct?”

Yes, pay close attention to the gap-fills to be sure the grammar is accurate.

“What counts as a word for the ‘no more than ____ words’ questions?”

Dates, times and numbers all count as 1 word. 200 is one word, 3,000,000 is one word, 11am is one word, 22% is one word and so on. Words with hyphens like mother-in-law are one word. For dates, 18th September is one word and a number.

“I don’t understand the test. Do you have a guide?”

Yes! Funny you should ask, I have it right here:

“Do wrong answers hurt my score more than blank ones?”

No, fill in all answers even if you are guessing. Do not leave any answers blank.

“How is the listening test made?”

It takes 1 – 2 years for a listening test to be made and every question must be approved and adjusted by dozens of people. The test is very reliable.

“How is the listening test marked?”
Usually the local staff in your country will mark them by hand before recording your scores.

“Do the sections get harder as the test goes on?”

Yes, section 4 is usually the hardest and section 1 is the easiest.

“Should I take the computer based IELTS listening?”

There are some key differences to the computer based test (you don’t get 10 minutes at the end to check/transfer answers, you wear headphones, and you must type your answers) but otherwise it is exactly the same. You can still take notes.

Test Day

“How many times can I listen?”

Just once.

“Can I write on the test?”

Yes, go ahead!

“Will I get headphones?”


“What if there’s a problem?”

Tell one of the staff working at the center. They will help you.

“Should I write in pen or pencil?”

Pencil for both listening and reading.

“Can I go to the toilet during the test?”

No, you cannot stand up during the listening test.

“Can I bring a drink?”

Yes, as long as the bottle is transparent. (But be careful because in many countries there are no bathroom breaks allowed!)

Improving your Listening

“How can I improve my listening?”

In general, follow the tips here:

For specific tips for IELTS listening, check out this one:

“What else is the listening test testing?”

It tests listening, reading and writing. So practicing listening alone isn’t enough to do well on the test.

“Can you recommend some good listening websites?”

Our favourite one in general is

For IELTS, the best one is

“How long should I practice everyday?”

It depends on your level of English and the score you want. The important thing is that you do it everyday – that’s more important than how long you practice!

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